What the Power-Energy Continuum means for your network

What the Power-Energy Continuum means for your network

Who should you network with? "Everyone!" is ideal but not sustainable or efficient. To optimize your networking you need to understand the Power-Energy Continuum, a term I just made up describing a phenomenon I've witnessed for years.

The term refers to the spectrum representing the people you reach out to. The more senior the person's role, the less time they have to support you. They'll be well connected, have lots of authority, and unmatched wisdom. But all of the authority comes with responsibility, stress, and an overflowing calendar. They'll have more power, but less energy.

Junior folks are the opposite. They won't have the same level of insight, wisdom, or experience, but they'll be much easier to get on the phone. They have more energy to help you, but less power to connect you with others or get you hired.

The trick is being comfortable with both and knowing when to utilize each side of the spectrum

Many people want to shoot straight for the top. They'll confidently reach out to the hiring manager, or the VP, or even the CEO. This approach can work wonders, but it overlooks the likelihood that someone lower in the organization may actually be able to help you more. What about the intern from last year? Or the most recent hire in the division you're trying to get into? Those folks are likely to be a fountain of information. It'll be easier to reach them, they'll be more responsive, and they'll have more time to talk.

On the other hand, many others are terrified of networking with powerful people. The reality is, powerful people are people too. Candor and willingness to learn goes a long way in these conversations. You just need to be extra diligent about how you interact with them. Being punctual and having thoughtful questions are table stakes. The more senior, the more likely they are to ignore your messages or not get back to you. They simply don't have the time. This is why it's important to follow the Three Rules of Reaching out to Strangers to maximize your chances of landing a conversation.

Ultimately the goal is to have people in your network at every level: junior, senior, and executive. But you have limited time and should focus on making connections with the people who are going to help you the most. Getting on the phone with an executive can be invaluable, but it also often takes weeks to get on the calendar, and it's common to get cancelled/rescheduled last minute.

Here are three categories of people who can make excellent mentors and sources of info, despite being lower in the org chart:

  • Recruiters: they interact with more candidates and hiring managers than anyone else in the organization. Don't underestimate their knowledge.
  • The interns from last year: This is my favorite from the left side of the Continuum because they're the most overlooked experts. The people who got the job you're looking for immediately before you are the world's foremost authority on what it takes to get that job. They'll know the application, interview process, and experience on the job inside and out. Talk to them.
  • Young alumni from your school or a previous job: Like the interns from the previous example, these folks too are especially qualified to guide you because they're directly ahead of you on the journey. And they're more likely to lend a hand because of the connections you share.

The key takeaway of the Power-Energy Continuum when efficiently allocating your networking effort is to take a step back and evaluate all the potential sources of the information you're looking for. If you can get on the phone with an executive, awesome, otherwise the recent grad is likely to help you more, faster.